The Final Post

Wow, what a journey it’s been to create this little bear!

I’ve already presented my final project, so I feel almost as if I’m cheating by writing this post. I’ll start with the journey to create the bear, and end with notes on the presentation.

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As I mentioned in my other posts, I have worked on this piece with help from my grandmother. I don’t think I could have done it without her. I think part of this experience was learning from her and gaining from her experience. While the project called for internet tutorials, I think being able to learn from my grandmother was more valuable. That being said, we did have quite a few clashes of personality, as she wanted to move at her speed and I was still stuck on mine! However, we compromised and moved at a pace that suited both of us.

One area that I was especially grateful for Nana’s help in was in deciphering the instructions. We thought the instructions were good, but they skipped steps and were generally all over the place. It took a lot of trial and error to figure out how to make the bear. I think that, in the future, I’ll be able to read instructions better.

Another thing I learned is that cotter pins don’t produce the tight joints that I wanted, giving the bear a looser, loved look. That worked for the project, but it wouldn’t work as well if I wanted to give the bear away as a present.

Researching trauma for this project brought out a lot of emotions for me, and I was able to deal with those emotions through the artistic process.

I originally decided to have the bear buried in garbage, but the professor pointed out the isolating nature of trauma. That changed my mind. I decided to have the bear alone behind a plinth, and have flashlights pointing to the bear. This was my original idea. A few days before I was going to present, I had the idea of including a little story to go with my display. I thought of this because teddy bears are a fixture in children’s stories. I wanted to add real statements that abusers said to their victims, so I went to the amazing Project Unbreakable  for inspiration. It really made the difference, I think.

My presentation went very well, I think. I feel like my classmates understood what I was going for.

 

The Bear is Finished!

After months of hard work, the little bear that could is finally finished.

However, I don’t know how smooth of a finish it was. The pattern had no instructions to attach the arms, so I figured that they should probably be attached in the same manner as the legs.The arms and legs are jointed, of course, so this was a little bit harder than simply sewing them on. There weren’t many good examples of how to use cotter pins online, so the arms and legs wound up being a bit MacGyvered.

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These are cotter pins with discs

The trick to the cotter pin is relatively simple when you get the hang of it. First, stuff the limb of the bear through a hole. Make sure the hole is where you want the joint to be. Second, place a disc and washer (in that order) over the rounded side of the pin. Then, sew a gathering stitch around the hole used for stuffing  (I found a cool video demonstrating it in this post). Attaching to the body is a little bit harder. The body of the jointed bear isn’t stuffed until last (as seen in the picture below). To complete the joint, one takes the pointier end of the pin and poking it through the body of the bear. Then, one puts a disc and washer over the pin. After that, one takes a pair of needle nosed pliers and bends the pin apart (in the above picture, the pin has a longer part and a shorter part, these are what is bent apart). Repeat four times for all of the limbs!

After you finish attaching the limbs, you stuff the bear and voila! You’re done!

My bear didn’t turn out quite like the picture, but I think it’s a fair first try.

 

Art Research: Trauma

Hey everyone,

As I’ve hinted to, this project is about trauma. Trauma is a complicated subject, and I decided to break some of it down for you here.

The simple definition of trauma, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, is  ” a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time”.   This is only the tip of the iceberg. In psychology, the definition of trauma expands to add that the experience described in the earlier definition is one that the individual is unable to cope with, and involves a degree of fear.

There’s a great video by the United States Veterans Health Administration that describes PTSD, one of the reactions to trauma, better than I could. I’ve included it below:

Some of the symptoms of trauma are:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling disconnected or numb
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Being startled easily
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Edginess and agitation
  • Muscle tension

These symptoms are often the same in adults and children, but children tend to act out their traumatic experiences with toys and through artwork. Children, because of their differing cognition from adults, may also form different opinions about causality of trauma than adults. Take one of my favourite characters, Batman/Bruce Wayne. While his loyal butler Alfred blames Joe Chill for shooting the Waynes, as a child Bruce blames himself because he made his parents leave the theater.

I chose to focus my project more around childhood trauma than adult trauma because of the teddy bear. Children have very personal and powerful relationships with their toys, and trauma changes this relationship. In movies, TV, and real life the first thing that a child is given after a traumatic event is a beloved cuddly toy. After trauma children may also latch onto a toy like a teddy bear as a form of security.Playing with toys can be used a therapeutic approach to help a child deal with trauma. On the other hand, one of the possible symptoms of trauma in children is that they lose interest in playing with their toys and discard them. This just shows the many ways toys relate to trauma.

A New Direction

Hey everyone,

As I’ve been working, I’ve realized that I probably won’t have time to complete three bears as I originally hoped. What I’ve decided to do is make the bear I’ve already been working on and turn it into the “trauma bear”–a teddy bear that represents how a traumatized individual feels.

It’s hard to see in the right picture, but the little bear has a little mouth that I used red thread to stitch over and give the idea that his mouth is sewn shut. I was worried that wouldn’t be subtle enough, but I think it might be a surprise to viewers looking closely at it because it can’t really be seen from a distance.

I also had to make some adjustments to the eyes: I didn’t realize that the eyes I bought needed to be added while the head was unstuffed, and I could not undo the stitching to get them in. I wound up using black buttons instead of the lovely safety eyes I bought. I like the look of the buttons better, however. I think it contributes to the charm of the bear.

That’s all I got for now, folks.

 

A Reflection on Teddy Bear Art

I have been searching the internet for days to find good examples of Teddy Bear art. I have seen many examples of beautiful handmade bears, such as here on the Duffy Antiques blog. I tried to find at least three examples of teddy bear art blogs, but a lot of them were poorly designed or hadn’t updated in a while.

I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t seen a lot of people pushing the boundaries of teddy bear art, aside from the undead teds that I’ve already covered. Most teddy bear art is very whimsical and cute, but I haven’t seen much that really questions the purpose of the teddy bear in society. I hope that my work adds something that hasn’t been seen often in teddy bear art.

Building Bears: Resources

Here are some cool resources that I found about the things that I did in my last progress post. First, this video is a good tutorial on how to gather fabric:

I also attempted (and failed) today to use a ladder stitch to attach the ears to the bear. I decided that I should watch a tutorial before I attempt it again. I found this video, which is a little longer than the other one, but it’s a good video. I also appreciated that Wendi used the ladder stitch to sew up a bear, which is what I’ll be doing eventually. I don’t know how helpful it will be for sewing an ear onto a bear, so I may have to try a different stitch to get that one on. I shall have to see my sewing consultant.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a video that showed how to cotter pin joint a teddy bear, or any online tutorials. I was rather disappointed.

Building Bears: Progress

The parts finally arrived from Ontario, so the making of the teddy bear has begun! We have decided to work on assembling one bear at a time, as I decided to get more fabric for the trauma bears. Nevertheless, we have all the supplies.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find mohair at any of the fabric stores in Regina. I decided not to order mohair fabric online due to the cost. I was unable to find another fur fabric that suited my needs so I decided to go with fleece for the bear. I thought this was a suitably cuddly fabric that would be easy to work with. I also broke from traditional bears and decided to use environmentally friendly stuffing to stuff my bear.

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Today I cut out all the parts for one bear and began working through the instructions. My sewing consultant (Grandma) was there supervising my work the whole time. We used tracing material instead of cardboard as per the instructions, due to ease. This wouldn’t be the first time we broke from the instructions.

lego movie

Master Builders don’t need instructions

 

 

As we worked, we realized that it would be easier to use a sewing machine to build the bears than hand stitching. We figured that the original teddy bears, except for the prototypes, were likely sewn by machines.

I managed to get the basic shape of the head done today, and inserted my first joint. Turns out the joints are very easy to install! First, one puts the pin through the washer and joint board. Then, one uses a gathering stitch around the neck joint to pull the fabric around the joint. Then, you gather the fabric around the joint and tie it off.

I had to break from the instructions. Rather than sewing the gusset to the teddy face (fun fact: “gusset” in teddy bears means part of the head, but in clothes sewing it’s the groin area of the pants) from nose to neck, I had to sew from neck to nose. This made the bear’s face a little bit uneven, but luckily it’s on the nose and will be covered up by the embroidery thread used to make the bear a nose.

Here is the total of my progress today:

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